The Conference Finals are over and we're down to the final 2. And I'm not just talking about teams left in the playoffs. Barring a miraculous performance over the next 2 weeks, the trophy has come down to Crosby versus Malkin. The two superstars are tied in points with 28. That's already the highest point total for any player in years, and the finals haven't even begun.
Statistics wise, it's a wash. Sid is better in plus minus, but that statistic is a joke. He's won many more faceoffs, which is a big factor. Malkin holds the edge in game winners (3 to 1) and OT goals (1 to 0). These stats obviously mean a lot in the playoffs.
So, you really have to go beyond statistics to make an informed decision. Having watched every game of the post season that these guys have played, it's still too close to call. Game to game you get a different lean. If the trophy were awarded today, flip a coin and it comes up Malkin. Mostly because he's offered more excitement in recent games. That could all change when the finals begin. So, forget Crosby versus Ovechkin. The real story of the 2009 playoffs will come down to Crosby versus Malkin for the Conn Smythe.
However, since history shows that the Trophy is often awarded to the wrong guy, we'll take a peek at the top guys who are next in line.
- Franzen - Though he doesn't have a prayer to catch Sid or Geno in points, he does have an outside shot at finishing with more goals and more game winners. If he comes up huge with a couple of OT goals in this series, he may actually get some talk.
- Osgood - About the only justifiable way to hold the trophy back from the big 2 is to give it to a goalie. This seems to happen few years when the voters can't decide between more deserving skaters (Cam Ward in 06, Patrick Roy in 01). Osgood's numbers are good enough to merit the thought, although they're not nearly as good as they were during last year's run.
- Lidstrom - At almost a point a game from the back end, the case could be made for Lidstrom, especially given his dominance all over the ice. The fact that they fared well in 2 games without him doesn't support his cause; however, if he misses a couple games to start this series, Detroit will falter, and voters should take notice of his absence.
- Ovechkin - Sure, they've never given the trophy to a player who didn't make the finals, but hey, they gave him the All-Star breakaway trophy when he didn't score a goal and they're going to give him the league MVP trophy, despite trailing Malkin in every important category, so why not let the Great 8 love fest be taken to the next level?